Brussels, Dusseldorf, Kadikoy, Munich, Nuremberg, Oslo, Paris, Riga, Stockholm and Zurich have joined for the first time the campaign inclusivecities4all by pledging to the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2023.
These rising inequalities and social exclusion due to several crises highlight the need for an action plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights.
“We know that local authorities often lead the way in implementing social policies, as demonstrated by Eurocities campaign ‘Inclusive cities for all’,” says Annette Christie, Councillor of the City of Glasgow and Chair of the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum.
The campaign, run by Eurocities since 2018, rallies city leaders to contribute to a fairer, more equal, and inclusive Europe by committing to any of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights and presenting concrete actions on the ground.
European Commission’s allies
The truth is municipalities are the European Commission’s allies in translating the European Pillar of Social Rights into local realities. These 10 municipalities’ commitments have evolved from words to concrete local measures as they add their name among the 83 other city pledges from 56 cities. These urban areas collectively represent 95 million residents from all corners of Europe, illustrating cities’ broad impact and essential role in shaping EU social policies.
Some of those 10 new social heroes, as the campaign has named them, “are a very clear manifestation of continued commitment from cities to the European Pillar of Social rights, and this provides the needed impetus to push social rights forward, even in the face of challenges like shrinking public budgets,” adds Christie.
She also highlights the importance of local social engagement. “13 of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights are within the competencies of our cities. And we know cities have the competency and expertise – however, we are working with one hand behind our back if we have to keep asking central government for funding and handouts,” she adds.
For Ruth Paserman, Director of Funds, Programming and Implementation at the European Commission, future challenges should not be overlooked. “There are new social challenges since the world is changing.” She mentions the green transition, ageing populations, the labour market adaptability and digitalisation.
A quality job, a decent house and good health
Indeed, labour qualifications and requirements are changing, and digitalisation is altering tasks and entire industries while the demand for skilled workers in certain sectors is rapidly increasing.
Already in 1993, Munich launched the Employment and Qualification Programme to monitor and address local labour market challenges. This is the most extensive municipal labour market programme in Germany, with almost 100 projects helping the long-term unemployed, those returning to their careers, single parents, skilled workers, migrants and refugees, young people, students, graduates and small companies.
The goal is to reduce long-term unemployment, promote occupational equality, support the transition from education to work, enhance competencies and secure staff.
To ensure wellbeing, Kadikoy developed rights-based, inclusive, equal and accessible services in the field of health.
The city is the first in the country to open a consultancy centre to bring together polyclinic services in the field of sexual health with preventive-protective health services and social service work. The centre focuses on enhancing well-being and health, particularly women and young people.
The centre’s services include individual and group counselling, psychological and social support, and workshops and educational activities.
To follow the objective of the European Platform on Homelessness to overcome homelessness by 2030, Dusseldorf will continue to focus on the vulnerable group of homeless people in the future. To achieve this, suitable accommodation and housing options must be created and provided to homeless individuals.
The municipal accommodation and placement of particularly vulnerable individuals continuously present new challenges, which is why Dusseldorf believes needs must be assessed periodically to create tailored services. That is why the city of Dusseldorf continues to acknowledge the need for social work in this field and promises increased support for homelessness with initiatives such as Housing First, dignified shelters, accommodation for vulnerable groups and help to rent houses.
No to discrimination
Four cities commit to principle three – equal opportunities. One of them is Zurich. Even though Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, Zurich identifies with the European Pillar of Social Rights principles and the efforts towards a sustainable, fair and social Europe.
The city believes that, according to the Swiss Constitution, the strength of the people is measured by the well-being of the weak. Zurich is committed to ensuring the entire population can access all municipal services. Enabling access and increasing participation are two of the five main integration policy targets.
The main work areas for absolute equality of opportunity are childcare, labour market, access to municipal services, financial assistance and medical care.
Oslo bases its work for diversity and equality on an intersectional perspective. Hatred, prejudice, and discrimination cause harm to individuals who are denied access to employment, education, housing and social arenas. To prevent those behaviours, the city developed the action plan ‘Words Matter’ against hateful speech and attitudes and provides guidelines for managers and employees in the city and cooperation with civil society.
The plan provides practical advice on equal services and representative recruitment to managers and employees in the council, promotes religious dialogue, enhances procedures for protection against discrimination, welcomes new residents and disseminates resources for schools.
Yesterday, the 10 cities that pledged to the European Pillars of Social Rights in 2023 presented their actions on the ground to the #SocialForum23's attendants.
— Eurocities (@EUROCITIES) November 10, 2023
Yes to equal opportunities
Stockholm aims to be a city for everyone, where both new and old Stockholmers can live, work and build their future regardless of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
The city established the ‘Welcome House approach’, which shortens the establishment period for new arrivals by gathering all the city’s resources in one place. This one-stop-shop provides job advice, adult education and social orientation courses. It also offers new arrivals a digital guide and holistic wellbeing support and puts them in contact with associations that can assist their needs.
Paris also focuses on migration and integration. The city defends an unconditional and dignified welcome for all people regardless of why they leave their country of origin. The city promises to create an effective social policy with the desire to develop actions promoting integration as far upstream as possible in all its dimensions.
In line with its commitment and values, Paris launches or supports different actions to welcome and integrate refugees, such as day-care centres, marauds, juridical assistance, French language classes, food assistance, cultural and sports activities for integration, and citizen hosting. These actions are supported by awareness-raising campaigns addressed to the local population.
A focus on vulnerable groups
Riga is committed to guaranteeing children’s rights, improving the social inclusion of children from vulnerable groups and refugees, and promoting child participation. Supporting children, especially those with functional disabilities and their families, became one of the social welfare priorities in the city.
The capital of Latvia pledged to principle 11 – childcare and support to children, focusing on assessing children’s needs, resources of the family as a system (a family-centred approach), cooperative relations based on respect and open communication and professional social workers. Riga established concrete goals for the period 2023-2025.
Nuremberg focused on people with disabilities through principle 17 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Two years ago, the council adopted the first action plan for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This plan involves more than 200 actions spanning all areas of social life, such as labour and employment, health and medicine, education and lifelong learning, family and partnership, housing and living, mobility, culture and sports, political and social inclusion and the reduction of barriers.
The city constantly tries to ensure accessibility of public buildings, information and transportation. As inclusion not only means accessibility but also enables everyone to participate in social, cultural and political life, the municipality has also set up a fund for 2022 until 2024 to achieve these goals.
The City of Brussels pledged to principle two – gender equality. In 2022, Brussels launched a new action plan, “Nothing without my consent,” including 77 measures to combat harassment and gender-based violence.
The programme works on prevention, actions and follow-up, especially in festive environments and nightlife. For example, raising awareness of harassment, implementing a protocol and training security guards and taxi drivers. The city also creates safe space areas in nightclubs.
Before the end of 2023, the city will present the fifth version of this plan, which includes objectives aimed at promoting gender equality and combating all forms of violence against women.
You can check all the original pledges here.
Last week, the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum in Lyon became an excellent opportunity for those municipalities to share their hard work on inclusion and social initiatives.
All of them except Nuremberg were the protagonists of a session about local commitment that welcomed Ruth Paserman, Director of Funds at DG Employment in the European Commission.